Émile Chartier

From Quotes
Life at the greatest and best is but a froward child, that must be humored and coaxed a little till it falls asleep, and then all the care is over.
Oliver Goldsmith
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Émile Auguste Chartier (March 3, 1868 - June 2, 1951) was a notable French essayist and philosopher who wrote under the pseudonym Alain.


  • To think is to say no.
    • Le Citoyen contre les Pouvoirs
  • We prove what we want to prove, and the real difficulty is to know what we want to prove.
    • Système des Beaux-Arts (1920)
  • Nothing is more dangerous than an idea, when it's the only one we have.
    • Libres-propos
  • Every boat is copied from another boat... Let’s reason as follows in the manner of Darwin. It is clear that a very badly made boat will end up at the bottom after one or two voyages, and thus never be copied... One could then say, with complete rigor, that it is the sea herself who fashions the boats, choosing those which function and destroying the others.
    • Alain (Chartier, EA) (1908) Propos d’un Normand 1906-1914 (Gallimard (1956), Paris)
    • Translated by D.S.R., RogersDS, EhrlichPR(2008) Natural selection and cultural rates of change. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 105:3416–3420.

The Gods (1934)

  • If religion is only human, and its form is man’s form, it follows that everything in religion is true.
    • Introduction
  • It is the human condition to question one god after another, one appearance after another, or better, one apparition after another, always pursuing the truth of the imagination, which is not the same as the truth of appearance.
    • Introduction
  • When we speak, in gestures or signs, we fashion a real object in the world; the gesture is seen, the words and the song are heard. The arts are simply a kind of writing, which, in one way or another, fixes words or gestures, and gives body to the invisible.
    • Introduction
  • Man himself is an enigma in motion; his questions never stay asked; whereas the mold, the footprint, and by natural extension, the statue itself, like the vaults, the arches, the temples with which man records his own passing, remain immobile and fix a moment of man’s life, upon which one might endlessly meditate.
    • Introduction
  • As opposed to the incoherent spectacle of the world, the real is what is expected, what is obtained and what is discovered by our own movement. It is what is sensed as being within our own power and always responsive to our action.
    • Book I, ch. 3

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